David Foster Wallace made an art of taking readers into places no other writer even gets near. In his exuberantly acclaimed collection, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, he combines hilarity and an escalating disquiet in stories that astonish, entertain, and expand our ideas of the pleasures that fiction can afford.
Narrators include David Foster Wallace, John Krasinski, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Cerveris, Will Forte, Malcolm Goodwin, Christopher Meloni, Chris Messina, Max Minghella, Dennis O'Hare, Lou Taylor Pucci, Ben Shenkman, Joey Slotnick, and Cory Stoll.
The second of David Foster Wallace's three short story collections, Brief interviews with Hideous Men is a book that is meant to be heard more than read. Many of these 23 stories are interviews, after all, and the remainder are portraits that slip easily into the realm of a big screen voiceover. Each piece is a monologue, either an interview with a hideous man where the questioner's voice is omitted, or a severely deep third-person description of a hideous man. Wallace has an uncomfortably firm grasp on this concept of "hideous". A life-long Midwestern depressive with a keen sense of adjectives and philosophy thanks to two academic parents, Wallace won many awards for his ability to translate human misery into text, including the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction for one of the pieces in this collection. These are tales of lonely, violent, desperate, very intelligent and articulate men, written by a man who would have easily counted himself among them.
There are a number of reasons why this collection's ideal form is the audiobook. Wallace himself narrates about a third of the stories with an unmistakable softness and intimacy that only the author could bestow on these undesirables. When they shout, rant, and say awful, murderous, or demeaning things, it is Wallace's gentle inflections that will coach you into a respectful ability to keep witnessing the interviewees' monstrosities. About another third of the collection is narrated by John Krasinski, of television's The Office fame. Kransinski's voice is a great foil for Wallace's, slightly less nasal and a bit more edgy, but no less compassionate. Krasinski is also very deep into this book; he adapted it into a screenplay and then directed the film as well as acted in its ensemble cast. in fact, the majority of the ensemble cast narrates the remaining third of these pieces. So the audiobook essentially contains the entire set of monologues from Krasinski's film by the actual actors in that film, minus the overarching thread they concocted to tie all of Wallace's pieces together.
There is a beauty in the simplicity of this plan that makes the text vivid in a way a film cannot. These are men explicating the very roots of their male psyche, and you will not want to know what their faces look like. These are the men who compel you to eavesdrop on them in the anonymity of a train ride to work, but you wouldn't want to get right up close and share a cab with them. You will be sickened to find yourself agreeing with some of what you overhear, but mainly, you will just be horrified by what you overhear. These are men on the edge of the abyss, with Wallace and Krasinski at their best in justifying the worst these characters have to offer. Megan Volpert
"[T]hese stories, at their best, show an erotic savagery and intellectual depth that will confound, fascinate and disturb the most unsuspecting reader as well as devoted fans of this talented writer." (
"In this book he demonstrates his strengths as a stylist, humorist and thinker.... None of these stories is easy, but all display an intelligence and a swagger that make them hard to put down." ( The Wall Street Journal)
"Brilliant... bitingly funny...wildly imaginative." (Salon.com)
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